By Harshada David Wagner
In kaliyug, the default setting is suffering. We have to choose to be good. we have to choose to live in harmony with nature. We have to choose to experience the love in our hearts.
Kaliyug – the age of darkness. There is quite a large body of evidence that tells us we are living in a time of darkness. All one needs to do is turn on the evening news or visit one of India’s most holy and most polluted rivers to see that there is some kind of serious decline in overall dharma going on. It’s true there is much compelling evidence in the outside world of an age of darkness – but we really need not go beyond our own inner experience to see the mark of Kaliyug.
Kaliyug is this time when it isn’t our first nature to seek the truth. It’s this time when we have to choose to be good. We have to choose to live in harmony with nature. We have to choose to experience the love in our hearts. Left to our own devices, our own accustomed tendencies, most of us, even the most yogic, would slide. The default setting – as it were – in Kaliyug, is suffering.
In other ages, the sages tell us people are born with the knack to automatically experience the truth and make it shine though their actions. They say that in other ages, people simply live in harmony with nature and with each other and are wise and happy without effort. But in this age, each of us is born with the option to be unhappy and wicked. Each of us is born with the potential to suffer and to share our suffering with others and hurt others in myriad ways. We are also born, of course, with the truth as our essence, but that essence comes wrapped within a great game of hide-and-seek, of forgetting and remembering. In Kaliyug, darkness, forgetfulness, and ignorance are always the easiest options. To be truly happy, joyous and free, most of us have to become skillful yogis.
With this in mind, we can choose to see this time as one of tremendous darkness – or a time of tremendous potential. I believe that many of us chose to be here now – and that we made our choice with the noble purpose of learning and serving. From this point of view, it makes sense why we would opt to be born into such a time and place. A birth in Kaliyug is a particular kind of curriculum – one that we could never study at any other age.
Baba Muktananda was very fond of saying that this world is a university of love. If we approach the world as students, then Kaliyug ceases to appear as a mistake or an unfortunate development. It becomes an ideal and vastly challenging learning ground for those of us who wish to learn how to love.
It’s easy to love when everyone is naturally kind and just. It’s easy to experience bliss when the rivers flow with sweet milk and golden light shines everywhere. But try to experience bliss in the midst of a sprawling, stinking Asian slum. Try to experience love as you listen to a corrupt politician lie to the world on television.
In this time, those of us who learn to love really learn to love. Those of us who learn to experience the truth learn to experience it in a radically unified, unconditional way.
Because of the nature of the world in this age, we have to learn to cultivate the power of discernment – the kind of discernment needed to recognize the rogue dressed in a guru’s robe and the saint cloaked in the business suit. We need to develop the discrimination to see the toxins beneath the surface of a squeaky-clean shopping mall and to see God’s sweet and holy face shining through the eyes of a miserable and corrupt leader. The darkness of Kaliyug makes it difficult to see clearly. Nothing is as it seems.
Mother Teresa had a beautiful expression. She referred to the dying and the lepers – her ‘poorest of the poor’ as Christ in his most distressing disguise. This is the work of Kaliyug: the Christ – that light of God – is there, but it is there behind an array of ever more baffling disguises. The experience of truth is there, but in order to enjoy that experience, we have to put forth some effort. This course of love – with all of its tests and assignments – can be a harrowing journey. But ultimately, it’s worth it.
For each person, the effort needed to traverse the path is different, but there are some tried-and-true practices given to us by the sages and siddhas that can help any of us make the most of our time here and even enjoy the course of study.
Virtues are those qualities in us that shine with the light of dharma and the truth. This practice is based on the idea that the truth is already present in us in all of its fullness. By cultivating these qualities – such as gentleness or fearlessness, forgiveness or contentment, we are allowing our own real nature to come forth. By doing so, we are entering into a win-win situation. We win because the power of these qualities actually propels our own sadhana. Gradually, their light takes over and predominates over our more habitual egoic tendencies. The world around us also wins, because when we cultivate these qualities, we actually bring them into the world and make our world a better place. When we are more gentle, the world we live in becomes that much gentler. It’s simple, but very high. ‘Be the change you want to see…’
Chant God’s Name
All of the great scriptures and sages tell us that in Kaliyug, chanting the name of the Lord is the supreme and most direct means for attaining the highest state. This has been my experience also. Whenever things are at their darkest – inside of my own being or outside in the world – chanting never fails to penetrate through the gloom.
When we chant out loud, the sound vibrations themselves resonate through physical matter, our bodies included. When we feel overwhelmed and knocked around ‘out there’ there’s no better therapy than a good chanting session. And then, as you go back into the fray, your actions are suffused with the power of the mantras. Again, the world is uplifted.
There is no shortage of chanting groups in India. Find one that works for you. Of course, I am quite biased, but I find the kirtan at Siddha Yoga centers to be superb. Siddha Yoga musicians are well trained and the chanting sessions are designed for depth – usually chanting one mantra for 30 minutes or more at a time. Most Siddha Yoga centers also sell high quality chanting CDs and tapes as well. To find a Siddha Yoga satsang in your city, email email@example.com or call Gurudev Siddha Peeth Ph. 025 22261221. Outside of India, visit www.siddhayoga.org.
Sitting meditation is a supreme means for overcoming the Kaliyug blues. No matter what the yug brings, our inner place of meditation can be a source of unconditional reprieve and respite. In meditation, we withdraw from the outside world into the pure consciousness inside. Our practice is a time each day when we can enter deeply into a space of purity and truth. As we steep our attention there, our way of feeling and being begins to resonate with the purity and stillness of that inner sanctum. When we return to the world outside, our choices and way of interacting with the world is uplifted and blessed. Regular meditation gives us the power to navigate through our lives in a centred, steady, loving way.
Contemplation is the practice of using the power of our minds to apply yogic wisdom to our lives. Through contemplation, we learn to look past the appearances of people, places, things, and events. One of the great weapons of Kaliyug is confusion. Nothing is as it appears to be. Things that appear to be holy or good turn out to be corrupt; surfaces that appear dirty or inauspicious conceal inner treasures. Through contemplation we learn to look with eyes of wisdom.
We can practice contemplation along with our sitting meditation practice. Many yogis like to keep a journal for contemplation near their meditation seat. We can use our journal to record insights or to engage in dialog with our own wiser, more enlightened ‘inner Self’. A great defense against Kaliyug is the simple practice of examining our lives day-by-day and strategizing ways in which to approach our circumstances from the vantage point of love and wisdom. Taking time out to work with our journals like this gives us prep time so that we’re ready to act in the highest way when circumstances arise.
In this time, the power of satsang cannot be underestimated. It’s important to surround yourself with people who help bring out the best in you. Good company is that company that constantly helps you to keep growing and keep expanding. In the University of Love, it’s good to have some study buddies. Find people with whom you can share insights about sadhana. Meditate together, chant God’s name and help each other learn to love. It can be very difficult to do sadhana in Kaliyug – we won’t find much support ‘out there’. When we do find like-minded souls who share our love for the truth, it’s a good idea to keep them close and enjoy their company again and again.
The scriptures say that at the end of Kaliyug, when the darkness reaches its peak, a being will arise – an avatar – Kalki, to banish the darkness and usher in the next golden Satyug. Personally, I don’t want to wait for Kalki to appear. At least I will not wait for him or her to appear as a separate person or figure. It may be that this time the avatar will take a different form all together. It may be that he will take the form of that Force in each of us … that energy rising inside as you read this. No matter what Kaliyug throws at us, this quiet power there beneath our thoughts, there pulsing within our hearts is an option that we can choose. Each of us has the power to choose – darkness or gold – for ourselves and for the world in which we live.
As we each practice on our own in little ways and join forces with others to choose that gold again and again, the darkness does begin to lift. Gradually, we begin to graduate from the University of Love and the Golden Age in all its glory begins to dawn – in our hearts, in our homes, in our lives.
This is the work of Kaliyug: the Christ is there, but behind an array of baffling disguises.
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